Zakum set to offer huge contracts

Contracts are set to be awarded for development of the Upper Zakum offshore field, one of the world's biggest oilfields that is a testing ground for ExxonMobil in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi consortium developing one of the world's biggest offshore oilfields is set to offer contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the next two years.

Zakum Development Company (Zadco), the Abu Dhabi-led consortium, is to award contracts this year to build offshore pipelines and next year for processing facilities on the four artificial islands that are planned to draw more oil from the Upper Zakum Field, according to one of the key shareholders.

"If you fly out there now, you'll actually see the islands surfacing above water," said Morten Mauritzen, the president of ExxonMobil's UAE subsidiary. The US oil giant holds a 28 per cent stake in Zadco, which it joined in 2006 to help the emirate meet its target of drawing 70 per cent of the oil from the reservoir, a recovery rate twice that in many other fields. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and Japan Oil Development own the rest.

The artificial islands and drilling rigs are scheduled to be completed by 2015 and are to replace 90 well-head towers that sit above an estimated 16 billion barrels of reserves.

Zakum is a test of ExxonMobil's negotiating abilities as it vies for other contracts in Abu Dhabi, including onshore fields and projects to capture carbon emissions and inject them into the ground.

"Clearly the challenge for us is to demonstrate what we have set ourselves out to do in Upper Zakum," said Mr Mauritzen. "The next three or four or five years, the focus really needs to be on the Upper Zakum project, completing the islands and the facilities - get the rigs on, start drilling the wells and actually demonstrate that what we set ourselves out to do was successful."